Potty training cows to use a ‘MooLoo’ could save the planet

Potty training cows to use a ‘MooLoo’ could save the planet

It has previously been estimated that cattle agriculture accounts for almost 15 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

But while methane and carbon dioxide are the two most troublesome gases, cows are also indirectly responsible for producing the third most troublesome gas: nitrous oxide.

Faeces and urine produced by cows mix together and turn into ammonia, and when this seeps into the soil, bacteria turn it into nitrous oxide.

To potty train the calves, researchers started off by rewarding them when they urinated in a latrine, and then allowed them access to the latrine even when they were grazing outside.

Dr Langbein, said: “You have to try to include the animals in the process and train the animals to follow what they should learn. We guessed it should be possible to train the animals, but to what extent we didn’t know.”

To encourage latrine use, researchers wanted the animals to associate urination outside the latrine with an unpleasant experience.

Dr Langbein explained: “As a punishment, we first used in-ear headphones and we played a very nasty sound whenever they urinated outside. We thought this would punish the animals – not too aversively – but they didn’t care. Ultimately, a splash of water worked well as a gentle deterrent.”

Researchers said the calves showed a level of performance comparable to that of children and superior to that of very young children.

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